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May 25, 2024

Secretary of State Benson accused of campaign finance violations

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson allegedly accepted a donation in excess of $10,000 over the state’s legal campaign finance limits.

The purported discrepancy is the basis for a lawsuit filed with Attorney General Dana Nessel Tuesday by Michigan Rising Action. According to an MRA news release, Benson accepted four separate contributions from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights totaling $81,500. The state-imposed limit is $71,500.

“Michigan law is clear regarding contribution limits to statewide candidates – an independent committee may only contribute $71,500 in an election cycle,” the MRA complaint reads.

In its complaint, MRA calls on Nessel to “swiftly investigate the Benson Campaign’s illegal circumvention of the contribution limits under MCL 169.252 of the MCFA.”

Noting the state’s Secretary of State is Michigan’s chief elections official, the MRA complaint asserts Benson must be well-versed in campaign finance law.

“As the elected Secretary of State, Ms. Benson should be fully aware of contribution limits. Secretary Benson, Michigan’s chief elections official and an Ivy League educated attorney, has either intentionally broken Michigan’s campaign finance laws, or does not understand the fundamentals of campaign finance contribution limits.”

Violation of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act includes penalties of up to a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail. State law requires complaints made against the secretary of state to be referred to the attorney general for investigation.

“It is time for Jocelyn Benson to be held accountable for violating the very laws she swore to uphold in the interest of personal and political gain,” Eric Ventimiglia, MRA executive director, said in a statement.

“As the state’s top campaign finance official, Benson’s inability to follow the law casts severe doubts on her ability to do her job and rule on other campaign finance issues,” Ventimiglia continued. “Until the Secretary of State can learn to follow the laws she should recuse herself from future rulings.”

The MRA’s lawsuit comes after another conservative group, the Michigan Freedom Fund, accused Nessel and Benson of allowing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to violate campaign finance laws.

On Friday, the Michigan Freedom Fund filed a formal request for a declaratory ruling with Benson, saying the secretary of state is giving cover for the governor to launder millions of dollars to campaign accounts that will benefit both women’s re-election campaigns.

MFF alleges Whitmer exploited a loophole in Michigan finance law, which allowed her to accept unlimited campaign donations during an effort to recall the governor. Whitmer collected $3.5 million in donations from a relatively small group of donors despite no active recall effort against her. Michigan law limits individual campaign donations to $7,500 per individual, but Whitmer collected several donations exceeding $200,000.

Rather than confiscating the money or returning the entire sum back to the original donors, Nessel permitted Whitmer to return one $250,000 donation to Mark Bernstein, brother of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein. Whitmer was allowed to “disgorge” the remaining monies to other Democratic campaign coffers, rather than returning the full amount of the contributions to the original donors as is customary.

“It’s no surprise that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson would accept contributions above the legal limit after she gave Governor Gretchen Whitmer a pass for doing the same thing,” Michigan Freedom Fund Executive Director Tori Sachs told The Center Square.

“Benson let Whitmer launder millions in corrupt campaign cash through the radical Democrat Party because it will be spent to help both of their reelection campaigns this year. It’s disgraceful that Jocelyn Benson ignores Michigan campaign finance laws, which she was elected to oversee and enforce, whenever it benefits her personally to do so.”

This article was originally posted on Secretary of State Benson accused of campaign finance violations

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